Assessment of ToxCast phase II for mitochondrial liabilities using a high-throughput respirometric assay

Lauren P. Wills, Gyda C. Beeson, Douglas B. Hoover, Rick G. Schnellmann, Craig C. Beeson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Previous high-throughput screens to identify mitochondrial toxicants used immortalized cell lines and focused on changes in mitochondrial membrane potential, which may not be sufficient and do not identify different types of mitochondrial dysfunction. Primary cultures of renal proximal tubule cells (RPTC) were examined with the Seahorse Extracellular Flux Analyzer to screen 676 compounds (5 μM; 1h) from the ToxCast Phase II library for mitochondrial toxicants. Of the 676 compounds, 19 were classified as cytotoxicants, 376 were electron transport chain (ETC) inhibitors, and 5 were uncouplers. The remaining 276 compounds were examined after a 5-h exposure to identify slower acting mitochondrial toxicants. This experiment identified 3 cytotoxicants, 110 ETC inhibitors, and 163 compounds with no effect. A subset of the ToxCast Phase II library was also examined in immortalized human renal cells (HK2) to determine differences in susceptibility to mitochondrial toxicity. Of the 131 RPTC ETC inhibitors tested, only 14 were ETC inhibitors in HK2 cells. Of the 5 RPTC uncouplers, 1 compound was an uncoupler in HK2 cells. These results demonstrate that 73% (491/676) of the compounds in the ToxCast Phase II library compounds exhibit RPTC mitochondrial toxicity, overwhelmingly ETC inhibition. In contrast, renal HK2 cells are markedly less sensitive and only identified 6% of the compounds as mitochondrial toxicants.We suggest caution is needed when studying mitochondrial toxicity in immortalized cell lines. This information will provide mechanisms and chemical-based criteria for assessing and predicting mitochondrial liabilities of new drugs, consumer products, and environmental agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-234
Number of pages9
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell cultur
  • In vitro and alternatives
  • Kidney
  • Safety evaluation
  • Systems toxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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